House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on Thursday challenged Ilocos Norte Gov. to show up at the House of Representatives and prove for herself the regularity of the questioned provincial government's purchase of motor vehicles.
In a statement to reporters, Fariñas asked Marcos why she is afraid to attend the House committee on good government and public accountability inquiry if she is telling the truth.
"If what she is saying are true, why is she afraid to appear and state them under oath in the House inquiry? Why has she ordered her six subordinates not to remember the three transactions subject of the inquiry? Finally, if the three transactions were all legal, why do they continue to invoke their right against self-incrimination?" he said.
The transactions referred to by Fariñas were the P66.45-million purchase of 40 mini cabs, five buses and 70 Foton mini trucks from 2011 to 2012 allegedly using tobacco excise tax shares.
Six Ilocos Norte provincial government officials have been detained at the Batasan Pambansa complex for refusing to answer questions on the alleged transactions.
"It's incomprehensible that they have chosen to be held in contempt and be detained for their refusal to answer questions about these cash advances. They claim that the transactions are legal but refuse to talk about them unless they are shown the original documents that have mysteriously disappeared in the Capitol," Fariñas said.
Marcos earlier said there was nothing anomalous about the purchase of the motor vehicles, saying that the pre- and post-audit reports of the Commission on Audit found nothing irregular about the transactions.
"The transactions being questioned complied with the procurement law and the conditions for lawful cash advances have been fully complied with. The supposed Audit Observation Memorandum drafted by the COA on one transaction was not issued officially. It is proof that the COA itself found its issuance without basis consistent with its final audit findings," she said.
Fariñas, however, cast doubt on Marcos' claims.
"Gov. Marcos claims that the use of cash advances for the purchase of the 115 vehicles is legal, but her 6 subordinates refuse to answer the simple question if cash advances were resorted to in these transactions," he said.
"Are they all afraid to be eventually asked and reveal who actually received and kept the P66.45 million in cash?" he added.
Fariñas likewise pointed out that it was Marcos who approved her own request for the purchase of the 70 Foton mini trucks, their alleged biddings, and the disbursement voucher for the cash advance.
"But there was not a single Foton mini truck delivered to the province of Ilocos Norte. This is a clear falsification of public documents and ghost delivery of 70 Foton mini trucks," he said.
Marcos has already said the questioned motor vehicles do exist.
"Are the vehicles missing? They are all accounted for and are being used by the beneficiaries,” she said.
For House panel chair Rep. Johnny Pimentel, however, the issue is not whether the questioned vehicles are existing or not.
"The issue here is the anomalous purchase of vehicles which violated RA 7171 and RA 9184, also COA Memorandum Circular 97-002," told reporters.
"Marami pong batas ang nilabag [nitong] mga anomalyang transaction. Hahayaan na lang ba natin dahil isang Marcos ang sangkot na hanggang ngayon ay makapangyarihan pa rin?" he added.
Like Fariñas, Pimentel urged Marcos to attend the House hearing to personally air her side.
"Kung inosente siya, bakit ayaw niya humarap sa hearing? May kinatatakutan ba siya o baka naman my tinatago siya?" he said.
The House of Representatives has already issued a subpoena on Marcos to appear on the July 25 hearing on the issue.
Video conferencing, written testimony
At a press conference in Manila on Thursday, Marcos reiterated she would cooperate with the House panel hearing.
"Ang sa akin kasi gusto ko talagang harapin ito. Wala naman kaming tinatago. Kitang kita nyo naman ang mini truck, mga bus wala naman nawawala. Hindi naman ghost project. Ano ba naman ang itatago pa at pagtataguan ko?" she said.
If she were to participate in the hearing, Marcos said her supporters advised her to do so through video conferencing or a written testimony, to avoid being jailed.
But for Mindoro Oriental Rep. Paulino Salvador "Doy" Leachon, a member of the investigating panel, it is better for Marcos to share her statements before Congress itself.
"If Gov. Marcos has something to say, she should say it in Congress," he said.
"She says she has proof that the transactions were above-board and consistent with the law; if that's the case, then she can share these with us. She spoke for 30 minutes straight during her presscon, and we have no problem giving her an hour to speak if it will shed light on the irregularities we have discovered," he added.
Also on Thursday, Marcos and the six detained Ilocos Norte provincial government officials asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to issue a temporary restraining order on the ongoing probe.
They also asked the high court to assume jurisdiction over the writ of habeas corpus case, order the release of the six employees and issue a writ of amparo "given the actual and threatened violation" of their right to liberty. — RSJ, GMA News